• Paris police release photo of third stadium bomber

    22/Nov/2015 // 307 Viewers

    © Police Nationale / AFP | French police released this photo on Sunday of the third suicide bomber at Stade de France

    French Police on Sunday released a picture on Twitter of a man they said was the third suicide bomber at the Stade de France, in a call for witnesses as they try to confirm his identity.

    The man was among three people who died in the attacks outside the stadium, with police so far having identified one of the stadium attackers by name, French national Bilal Hadfi, 20, who lived in Belgium.

    The fingerprints of the other two show they passed through Greece. One of them was identified as Ahmad al-Mohammad from a Syrian passport found near his body, but it is not clear whether the passport was genuine or stolen.

    The man in the photo released Sunday presented a Syrian passport in the name of Mohammad al-Mahmod to Greek authorities, a source close to the investigation said.

    He and the other attacker who landed on Leros then took a ferry to the Greek port of Piraeus on October 8 before joining the migrant flow toward Serbia.

    They were among seven gunmen and suicide bombers in the wave of coordinated attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and around 350 wounded.

    Investigators on Sunday extended into a fifth day the detention of a man arrested on

    Wednesday outside the building where the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks died, the prosecutor’s office said.

    Jawad Bendaoud told a French television station he had been asked to put two people up in his apartment for three days, but had no idea they had anything to do with terrorism. He was then taken away by police.

    Under an anti-terrorism law introduced in 2006, terrorism suspects can be held for up to six days if there is a serious risk of an imminent act of terrorism, or for international cooperation. Then they must be charged or released.

    Police have already released the seven other people detained during the assault on the flat last Wednesday in which presumed ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and two other people died.

    France has launched a massive investigation to get to the bottom of exactly who was behind the shootings and bombings in Paris last Friday at the national soccer stadium, a famous concert venue and several bars and restaurants. Of the three stadium attackers, police have so far identified one man by name.

    Investigators believe Abaaoud, a Moroccan-born Belgian who had fought for Islamic State in Syria and was one the group’s most high-profile European recruits, was the mastermind behind the attacks.

    One of the suspected assailants, Salah Abdeslam, fled to Belgium the day after and fears of more deadly attacks prompted the authorities there to put Brussels on maximum alert on Saturday, Nov. 21.

    Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel advised the public to be alert rather than panic-stricken, but said the raised security level was due to the « serious and imminent » threat of Paris-style coordinated attacks.

    Belgium has been at the heart of investigations into the Paris attacks after links emerged to Brussels, and the poor district of Molenbeek in particular. Two of the Paris bombers, Brahim Abdeslam and Bilal Hadfi, had been living in Belgium.

    A poll conducted by IFOP for the Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed 27 percent of respondents were satisfied with French President Francois Hollande following the Paris attacks, up from a 2015 low of 20 last month.




    (FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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  • Final showdown with NATO looms as Russia deploys new missiles to the Baltic Sea region

    22/Nov/2016 // 459 Viewers


    MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military has deployed state-of-the art anti-shipping missiles in the nation's westernmost Baltic region, the Interfax news agency reported Monday, a move that comes amid spiraling tensions in Russia-West ties.

    Interfax said Monday that the military has put Bastion missile-launchers on duty in the Kaliningrad exclave that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. The Russian Defense Ministry said over the weekend that the Baltic Fleet was rearming itself with new missile-launchers, but didn't provide specifics.

    The ministry had no immediate comment on the Interfax report.

    The Bastion fires supersonic Oniks cruise missiles, which have a range of up to 450 kilometers (280 miles) and can be used against ships as well as ground targets. Last week, it made its combat debut in Syria where the Russian military used it against militants.

    Separately, Viktor Ozerov, the head of the defense affairs committee in the Russian parliament's upper house, told RIA Novosti news agency Monday that Russia would also deploy Iskander tactical ballistic missiles and S-400 air defense missile systems to Kaliningrad in response to the U.S. missile defense plans.

    "We are facing two main tasks — to penetrate air defenses and ensure protection from possible strikes," Ozerov said.

    The S-400, which Russia has used to protect its air base in Syria, is a sophisticated system that can simultaneously track and strike multiple aerial targets at ranges of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles). Based in the Kaliningrad region, the S-400s will be capable of targeting NATO aircraft and missiles over most of the Baltic region.

    Iskander has a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and high precision, allowing it to target facilities in several NATO member nations neighboring Russia with pinpoint accuracy. It can be fitted with a conventional or a nuclear warhead.

    Last month, the deployment of Iskander missiles to the Kaliningrad region worried Russia's neighbors. The Russian military said the move was part of regular training, but didn't specify whether the missiles were sent there temporarily or deployed on a permanent basis.

    The Kremlin long has warned that the development of NATO's U.S.-led missile defense system poses a danger to Russia's security and vowed to take countermeasures. Moscow also has complained strongly against the deployment of NATO's military units near Russia's borders.

    "To counter these threats, we will be forced to strengthen our air and missile defenses in the western vector and to deploy additional means to defend the relevant command-and-control infrastructure," Ozerov told RIA Novosti.

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  • 'One dead' in Swedish school sword attack

    22/Oct/2015 // 424 Viewers

    T News Agency/AFP | Swedish police officers secure the area following a sword attack on a primary and middle school in Trollhattan, on October 22, 2015 STOCKHOLM (AFP) - 

    One person has died after a masked man armed with a sword attacked people at a primary and middle school in Trollhattan in southwestern Sweden, hospital officials said.

    "I can confirm that one person has died. I can't say anything about who the person is," a spokeswoman at the Trollhattan hospital, Lotta Abrahamsson, told AFP. Police earlier said an adult and four children were injured.

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  • French customs seizes €20 million in cannabis hash

    22/Oct/2015 // 0 Viewers

    Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | Cannabis, cash and ammunition seized by police in the southern French city of Marseille on October 16, 2015

    French customs seized 7.1 tonnes of marijuana hashish worth about €20 million from vehicles parked in the chic 16th arrondissement (district) of Paris on Sunday in one of the biggest drug busts in France of the past two years.

    A source close to the investigation told BFMTV that the overnight seizure followed several weeks of inquiry by the National Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation (DNRED).

    No one has been arrested in connection with the case and the investigation is ongoing.

    Officers found the bricks of cannabis hashish, which were wrapped in plastic and burlap, stashed in the boot of three abandoned commercial vehicles parked along a boulevard in the 16th arrondissement in southwest Paris.

    The drugs have an estimated street value of around €20 million with a kilogram of hashish fetching between €2,500 and €3,000, according to police sources.

    The seizure is the biggest ever made in central Paris, said a source close to the investigation.

    Demand at 300 tonnes per year

    Since the start of summer, officials have seized several large quantities of drugs. On July 26, nearly 6 tonnes of cannabis hashish destined for the Marseille region was discovered in a villa in Vitrolles (Bouches-du-Rhône).

    But the country’s biggest seizure in recent years dates back to April 26, 2013, when customs officials discovered more than 7.5 tonnes of cannabis on trucks transporting fruit and vegetables in Hendaye (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) close to the Spanish border. In February of that year nearly 7 tonnes of hash was also found in a truck travelling from Spain near the Boulou toll on the A9 motorway.

    In total nearly 200 tonnes of narcotics were seized in 2014 by customs officers, including 157.3 tonnes of cannabis – an increase of 84 percent over the previous year and a record high, according to official figures.

    In France, customs is responsible for more than 80 percent of total drug seizures.

    Cannabis is the most abused drug in Europe and its consumption is on the increase – including in France, where authorities estimate demand at 300 tonnes per year.

    Possession or the use of cannabis accounts for more than 60 percent of all drug offenses in Europe


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  • Poland: Military Superpower?

    22/Oct/2015 // 385 Viewers

    Poland: Military Superpower?

    Don’t look now: A new military power may be rising on the plains of Central Europe. According to data recently released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a leading tracker of global defense spending, Poland’s military outlays last year jumped higher than any other country in Europe bar Ukraine, which is in the midst of a full-blown war. That includes Russia, which is on the other side of that war in Ukraine. In 2015, Poland’s plans for military spending top
    $10 billion.

    This is part and parcel of a 10-year, $36 billion modernization plan Warsaw launched in February to bulk up its defenses. In 2014, its spending rose 13 percent. A big part of its motivation: Russia’s meddling in Ukraine (Poland’s neighbor to the east), which continues to destabilize the country, despite a cease-fire agreed to in February. But even before Vladimir Putin decided to seize Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula a year ago, “Poland, for historical reasons, has always been more concerned about Russia” than many of its neighbors, notes Dr. Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of the SIPRI military expenditure project, and “they’ve always wanted to show themselves to be a serious emerging NATO partner.”

    Polish leaders have also been keen to woo American support, joining the fight in Iraq in the previous decade and allowing the United States to station parts of its Europe-wide missile defense shield system on its turf. Warsaw also announced on April 21 that it was purchasing American-made Patriot missiles for its own national missile defense system, which could cost up to $5 billion, all told. The U.S. State Department responded by declaring Poland “a stalwart NATO ally” and said in a release that its defense modernization program and commitment to spending 2 percent GDP on defense investments “directly fortifies the military strength of the Alliance.”

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Poland was the one country in Europe that didn’t get whacked by the financial crisis and ensuing recession that ravaged the continent. Countries like Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — which are also nervous about Moscow’s intentions — haven’t been in nearly the same economic health. After plummeting in 2008, their defense spending started picking up only in the last couple years, according to SIPRI’s report.

    But Poland still has a long way to go to catch up to the biggest military powers in Europe — Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany — which all spend anywhere from roughly $50 to $90 billion a year on defense. Still, at the rate it’s going, it could pull even with next-tier countries like Italy, whose spending continues to sink, in the not-so-distant future. Industrial power, it seems, is hard power too.

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  • Rich nations stalling on climate finance: developing bloc

    22/Oct/2015 // 355 Viewers

    AFP | Construction of the Roha Dyechem solar power plant at Bhadla, 225 km north of Jodhpur in India's Rajasthan state

    BONN (AFP) - 

    Developing nations accused rich ones Thursday of stonewalling on finance in negotiations for a universal climate rescue pact -- an issue they said would make or break the entire effort.

    The G77 bloc of developing nations, representing 80 percent of the world's population, insists that firm funding commitments from developed nations must make it into the core of the agreement being shaped at talks in Bonn.

    But negotiators from rich nations, they claimed, were trying to put off the difficult discussion so that multilateral lenders outside of the official UN climate process take over the responsibility for funding.

    The much-vaunted agreement, which would crown more than two decades of fraught climate negotiations, is meant to be inked at a year-end UN summit in Paris.

    "France will be judged by what is in the core agreement on finance. For us that will be the yardstick of success," South Africa's climate envoy Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, who chairs the G77, told journalists in Bonn.

    But while the bloc had come up with common positions on finance, she claimed, "developed countries have not negotiated, in the hope that it will be sorted (out) external to the agreement, where we are weakest," the ambassador said.

    The reason civil society observers had been excluded from negotiating sessions, she said, is because "that's where they (developed nations) hope they will get away with it.

    "Beneath the darkness, where there is no scrutiny from civil society, the hope is that our will will be bent so much that we are tired, we give up and then the issue is resolved by announcements that are external" to the UN climate process.

    The success of Paris, said Mxakato-Diseko, will be judged by "what will be contained inside" the core agreement, "not what has been announced by the World Bank, which is a competitor with developing countries for finance to give to us on conditions that are unregulated."

    Also disqualified, she said, are payments from the International Monetary Fund, which "has no status in the agreement."

    Having finance undertakings in the agreement was important, she argued, because they then become part of "a legal dispensation that must be met" -- under the UN's climate convention.

    "Otherwise we are left to the whim of charity, the whim of individual countries to decide if and when (to pay), depending on the circumstances."


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  • Greece hails ‘special relationship’ with France on Hollande visit

    22/Oct/2015 // 297 Viewers

    French President François Hollande begins a two-day visit to Athens on Thursday, bringing badly-needed support to Greece’s left-wing government amid tough talks with the country’s creditors.

    It marks the first visit by a French president since 2008, when Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy last travelled to the debt-saddled country.

    Hollande will be accompanied by at least four members of his cabinet including Finance Minister Michel Sapin, and a number of business chiefs.

    A French government source said the president was bringing "a message of confidence and optimism in Greece's future".

    Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said the French president's visit confirmed a "special relationship" forged during "difficult moments" in negotiations between Greece and its creditors, which include its EU partners and the International Monetary Front.

    Hollande will first hold talks with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday, before seeing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras the next day.

    In a statement to AFP news agency, Gerovassili said the two leaders would discuss the ongoing evaluation of the Greek economy by EU-IMF experts, and the crucial recapitalisation of Greek banks that lost billions of euros in deposits this year amid tense negotiations over a new bailout.

    Like Sarkozy before him, Hollande will then address the Greek parliament on Friday.

    ‘Non’ to Grexit

    France’s Socialist president is one of the few European leaders to have lent support to Greece’s young leader during months of gruelling talks on the country's debt mountain.




    Observers of the Greek debt crisis have creditedFrance with helping revive talks between Athens and its creditors this summer when Europe’s hardliners threatened to force Greece out of the eurozone.

    French officials campaigned vigorously against the so-called “Grexit”, though some critics remarked that France had been slow to react, allowing Germany to dictate the terms of crisis talks on Greece for months.

    France has sought to put a positive spin on the latest bailout deal, which staved off Greek bankruptcy but failed to ease the punishing austerity measures imposed on Greece in return for bailout cash

    When Tsipras returned to power in a snap election last month, Hollande welcomed the 41-year-old's victory as an "important success" for Greece and Europe.

    Tsipras will again need all the help he can get from the French president to persuade his European peers to agree to debt relief measures for his floundering country.

    The debt issue and investment initiatives will feature in his talks with the French presdient, Gerovassili said.

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  • JUST IN: At least, 19 people killed in helicopter crash

    22/Oct/2016 // 1283 Viewers


    PARIS, OCTOBER 22 , 2016: (DGW)  No fewer than 19 people have been reportedly killed mainly oil and gas workers as Mi-8 helicopter carrying 22 people  went down on Friday in the Yamalo-Nenetsky region, BBC has reported.

    A heartbroken President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to the families and relatives of the victims, local sources confirmed.

    According to reports, the helicopter “fell on its right side and the victims could not get out,” a military spokesman said.

    Three survivors were flown to the hospital but fog and poor visibility had hindered search and rescue operations, according to officials.

    A criminal probe has been launched but investigators suspect the crash could have been caused by a violation of flight safety regulations, a mechanical problem or poor weather conditions.

    The helicopter was flying from an oil and gas field in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk to the small settlement of Urengoi, reports the BBC.

    The region’s governor Dmitry Kobylkin has announced a day of mourning, calling the crash a source of “great sorrow for all of us.” - BBC

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  • Confusion, worry ahead of migrant camp closure in France

    22/Oct/2016 // 355 Viewers


    PARIS (AP) -  Aid workers in the port town of Calais are expressing worry over a lack of information ahead of Monday's scheduled dismantling of France's slum-like migrant camp.

    French authorities have said they plan to relocate the 6,486 people still staying at the camp to reception centers across the country or abroad as a "humanitarian" operation.

    The camp's closure is expected to last a week.

    French teacher Michel Abecassis said Saturday he's concerned many "don't know exactly where (the) reception centers are located" or "how many people there will be."

    Benedictine monk Johannes Maertens says it also remains unclear what will happen to many minors who want to go to the United Kingdom if they are refused entry.

    France plans to assign teenagers remaining in the country to special reception centers.

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  • Porn star Rocco Siffredi offers to teach sex in Italy's schools

    23/Dec/2015 // 1112 Viewers

     AFP/File | Italian actor Rocco Siffredi, pictured with adult-film colleagues Jade Laroche, Tarra White and Anna Polina in April 2011 in Cannes, has launched a petition demanding mandatory sex education in Italy's schools -- and offering himself as a teacher


    ROME (AFP) - 

    Porn star Rocco Siffredi, known as the "Italian stallion", has launched a petition demanding sex education become mandatory in Italy's schools and offered himself up as a teacher.

    "I wanted to launch this appeal because sex is a magnificent thing," he wrote on the website that began collecting signatures on Tuesday.

    "I put forth my name and my experience, I make myself fully available to go into Italian schools and personally promote this initiative," the 51-year-old added.

    Despite efforts stretching back over a century and dozens of legislative proposals, sex education is not part of the curriculum in Italy's schools.

    The petition on change.org, addressed to Italian Education Minister Stefania Giannini, had gathered some 21,600 supporters by Wednesday.

    "Pornography should be entertainment, but due to lacking alternatives, it has become a means to learn, especially for young people," he said.

    "I have been doing my work for 30 years and I have acquired enough experience to guarantee that what I do is not sex education," he added.



    © AFP

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